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MY AFRICAN GREY PARROT...He's a Little Plucker

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06.12.2007 (28.02.2008)

Advantages:
Special friend for a life - time

Disadvantages:
They need time and commitment and don't always get it

Recommendable Yes:

34 Ciao members have rated this review on average: exceptional See ratings
exceptional by (63%):
  1. mogdred1
  2. inycon2
  3. amylovelace
and 26 other members
very helpful by (37%):
  1. jonescraiga
  2. jesi
  3. jenny967
and 14 other members

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AFRICAN GREY PARROTS...

I for a time had a Yellow-Crowned Amazon and a Grey which my mum inherited when grandma died.
I knew those birds virtually all my life and loved them to bits. I was gutted when my mum re-homed them after I moved out, but I was expecting little boy, no way could I have coped with a newborn and 2 parrots in the small place we had.

Anyway this is mostly why I ended up taking on an African Grey about this time last year, and wouldn't be without him.
When I got him the poor guy had plucked himself bald and was not a happy birdie. Woman who had him couldn't cope with him and wanted to find him a new home. She didn't like to let him out and he didn't have much of a life sitting in his cage 24-7 bored out of his mind. She had got him from a pub somewhere and that's all I know of his life before he came to me. Ended up taking a very old cockatiel as well as parrot who also needed sorting out - Mug that I am.

If you're thinking of taking in or buying a Parrot then do your research and think long and hard before you do, they can be bloody hard work at times and NEED amusement attention and a decent diet.

To start with not everyone knows it but there are 3 different types of 'African Grey' parrot
  • There's the standard Congo Grey which has a Black beak and Bright red tail feathers.
  • Then there's what I've got which is a 'Timneh Grey'
    A bit smaller than the standard 'Congo Grey' and has a flesh coloured beak, also has a duller/darker red tail.
  • There's another type too which are more unusual and have scattered red feathers on the wings and body not just the tail.

African Grey parrots can live a long time, as I said my grandma's Grey out lived her and ended up with my mum. Approx. lifespan is about 50-60 yrs + so your investing in a real life-long friend, even if you get a 'pre-owned' bird like me - chances are your going to be together for a long time. There are many things to consider before getting a Grey:
SPACE

This is important as your bird is going to need a fair sized cage to call it's own, the minimum size has to be large enough for the bird to stretch and flap it wings in each direction but you are best going for the largest cage you can 'fit' into your house and life. Its not always biggest is best though, a small play stand will provide a new interesting playtime place to view the world from. There are many cages and stand to choose from out there, it's just a matter of finding one that suits both you and your birds needs.
My bird came with a big cage but not a lot in it - which was slowly sorted out so as not to completely freak him out. He was one messed up bird when he came to me but more on that later.

MESS

Lots of.
Parrots are not the tidiest of creatures. If you can't deal with mess and destruction you'd be better off going with a goldfish.
Greys are intelligent creatures and need amusement, this comes in many forms. Chewing and destroying things is a favorite pastime of many parrots, it's a natural behavior. In the wild Grey's live in big flocks and spend much of their time finding and opening their food - nuts and suchlike. Domestic birds have it too easy most of the time, with food provided in a bowl 24-7 no effort required on their part, so they have more time to fill. More on this in Diet.

In the past 6 months since we moved my grey has stripped a whole wall virtually bare of wallpaper - even though he's got other things to do if he's left to his own devices its one of his favorite pastimes

Pictures of African Grey Parrot
African Grey Parrot Picture 60903368 tb
Playing BIRD
- plus he learnt it bugs the hell out of me and gets him attention - well it used to at the old place as I liked that wallpaper, and wanted it to stay on the walls... here I hate the wallpaper and am past caring anyway !!
You will find bits of bird food on your floors everywhere no matter how often you hover up, and be prepared to clean up a fair amount of bird poop too, off your clothes yourself your furniture, floor etc as well as cleaning out your feathered friend cage most days.
Something else to mention is some people can be sensitive to bird 'dust' for want of a better term, Grey's in particular can cause allergic reactions in people - coughing etc basic respiratory trouble. Which is something to bear in mind if you have asthma or existing conditions.
TIME

As well as all that extra cleaning up and cleaning out feeding and watering your going to be doing a Grey requires 'quality time' with its pet human and things to do at play time !! A Grey will not be happy left alone with no entertainment, it wouldn't be fair to get a Grey if you don't have the time to enjoy it's company.

Well that's the main three bits covered and if your still with me so far then lets go on.

CAGE, TOYS, DIET...

As I already mentioned a big cage is a bonus as you can fit in more thing for your Grey to mess with and climb on.
The bar spacing is also important and should be about 2/2.5 cm space between bars for a Grey. The cage must also be placed out the way of excessive heat draughts and disturbance, mine is next to my computer table in the living room so he
is rarely lonely !!
Toys and Perches

Are essential whether you go for expensive shop bought stuff or homemade amusements toys are a must.
Personally I did my homework and came up with my own toys for my Grey, a toy doesn't have to be expensive to be enjoyed and many hours of amusement can be had from shredding paper and playing with bits and bobs.
Untreated natural pine wood is great for making blocks to string up and destroy, sisal rope is ideal for tying together bits, cotton reels etc as is non toxic and safe, and shreds up nicely ! my grey enjoys preening plucking and generally playing around with a thick knot of sisal rope - keeps him happy.
Perches are a big thing to consider too, it is important to have a variety of perches to choose from rather than all same width hardwood dowel perch.
Natural branches make for wonderful perches once dried and stripped I use Birch - If you are going to do this yourself check out what woods are safe to use as some can be toxic, a quick Internet search will set you on the right track. Most pet shops stock a variety of perches - I recommend the concrete sea shell type ones as are invaluable for beak and nail trimming, allows your bird to file its own beak which is better than having to take it to a vet to have a beak trim.
FOOD and WATER

A Grey requires more than just 'parrot food' even if you buy one specifically designed for greys that clams to be complete. I tried one of these, it was expensive and my Grey already set in his ways and bad diet did not eat half the bits in it - mostly the 'good' bits - the pellets with all those added nutrients.
So I went back to standard parrot food and again did my homework and began adding to his diet.
Fruit and Veg are an easy place to start, apple carrot and general salad stuff were easily introduced and accepted by my Grey, these days if he sees me eating something he wants some !
My Grey is fed standard parrot seed mix, whatever fruit or veg is around Apple, Banana, Grapes, Cress, Carrot, Celery, Lettuce, Peas, Sweetcorn etc. The odd bit of egg, hard cheese, and of course I'm bad and feed him the odd bit of biscuit and toast and suchlike - but I figure it balances out !!

Some foods are TOXIC or harmful so its well worth doing asking around / search the net to find out whats what - specific things to avoid are : avocado, chocolate, rhubarb.
Other things like Caffeine, Alcohol and anything high in sugar, salt, or fat is not good - which is common sense really.

I find another good occasional treat are large nuts in shells - almonds walnuts etc - Stock up at Christmas time !! - It takes some time but they get into them eventually - My Grey learnt to soak them in his water bowl for a while to make them
easier to open !!

The only other thing I feed is Egg-food or Egg Biscuits which you can buy from most Pet shops, it just gives them extra nutrients and vitamins that they can benefit from. My Grey was plucking badly when I first got him and I swear by Egg-food for helping get his feathers growing back.

It is also a very good idea to make them work a bit for their 'treats' something as simple as a few bits of carrot or favorite nuts hidden in a cardboard tube or box (fold tube ends over) can keep a Grey amused for a while. My grey has a Kong which is a small hard rubber hollow thing you can stuff with food, like the ones you get for dogs just in miniature.

Fresh water should always be available, and if you get a big bolt-on stainless steel bowl like I have then your bird can bath in it too, mine prefers to bath himself rather than be showered with a mister.
Though if you haven't got room a Squirt bottle set to fine mist will do for giving your Grey a shower every other week or so ( be careful to make sure the room is warm enough / your bird isn't going to be wet and cold especially when its not nice weather)
Or you can get large bird baths that fit over the cage door OR just provide a shallow dish of water your Grey can climb in and out of to bath and play in ( paint roller trays are pretty good for this job )

PLUCKING


This is a big parrot problem not Just for African Greys but depending what you read Greys are very prone to plucking out their own feathers, there are many reasons why birds may do it. Stress, Boredom, and frustration as well as a poor diet to name a few. There is no one set cause, and it is not an easy problem to solve.

My Grey had plucked his front bald when he came to me, he had no feathers or fluff to his front at all.

My grandmas Grey that we 'inherited' had the same problem - he was a proper plucker and needed more help than I had time to give - 20 odd years of my Grandma screwed him up and think it would have took another 20 years to sort his head out, though if I hadn't got little boy I would happily have spent the rest of my days loving the pair of them and sorting them out myself.
I read something which made sense to me at the time - which is when a bird has been plucking out its feathers - even if it now has a good diet and otherwise happy - it may continue to do it purely out of habit - like a human biting their nails.
This was the case with George my Grandmas Grey, the other parrot Sinbad the Amazon was a bit overweight - but otherwise a beautiful bird. They were re-homed to a guy with the space and time to spend with them - which I just didn't have.

SO about 3 years on and I get offered a Grey.....Barney though he's now most lovingly referred to as BIRD...lol

General signs of a healthy happy Grey will be alert with bright clear eyes, and good plumage (feathers)

Health

Small bit on health -The most common sign a bird is unwell is if it just sits uninterested with its feathers 'puffed' up. Though Birds - Greys included are generally very good at hiding illness until they get really unwell its just a natural thing.
There are obvious signs of illness such as swelling on the feet, and discharge from nostrils or eyes.
Though generally if a Grey is fed a good diet and cared for properly you should have little trouble with it.
Smoking around them is not good as Greys / Parrots / Birds are sensitive to strong odours, aerosols and such are bad and should not be used around your bird. Also if you have dogs check any flea treatments powders sprays etc you may use as some can be harmful to birds.
Love

I was determined to give my new Grey a better life and set about improving his diet, introducing him to new toys, adding new perches, and most important thing for him was OUT time, time outside his cage. He was very happy just to sit on top of his cage !
It took him a while to explore and venture onto the sofa...make himself at home and start ripping off my wallpaper...

It took weeks - months to build up the trust I have with him now. Parrots have strong Beaks and will bite if scared, threatened, startled, annoyed - .the list goes on.
They are a prey animal and quite fragile really, so its natural they are wary of things when faced with new things and situations. Though when settled and safe and happy they are the most entertaining curious characters.
Freedom

He always has the option of coming out his cage as i removed the door - its his choice
The only reasons I ever clip his door back on and shut him in are really for his own safety - for example if I go out and have to leave Buster Dog in
- as BIRD sometimes goes on the floor and bugs the dogs which normally would be fine as Dizz dog just goes upstairs if he won't quit bugging her - but new dog Buster wants to play and I worry he might squish silly mad BIRD by accident if left alone !!!
Other than that its up to him he rarely flies around and is quite happy on his cage and stand that I made him. He amuses himself climbing around and messing with his stuff, sitting on my knee while I'm on the computer ( his stand makes for a good place to put my feet up while typing)

Not Just a Pretty Boy...

African Greys are well known for their intelligence and their reputation is well deserved. My Grey talks when it suits him and spends his days whistling weird tunes, clicking, barking, sometimes screaming -when boy screams Bird screams...V.funny ! - Tweeting at the cockatiel, making mobile phone noises, sirens, squawking, car alarms, kisses. The list of sounds is endless - and there's always a new noise or word....They're a never ending source of entertainment !
There's nothing more special than sitting stroking a bird either, my Grey will sit for an hour or more just having his head tickled and being petted and stroked and can be super sweet and soppy sometimes.

A parrot is nothing like a cat or a dog or other animal make no mistake about it. If you are lucky enough to have your Grey from a baby then you have the chance at a special bond from the start as you are its first human.
If like me you get an older bird with its own past and history, it takes more time and a lot of patience, but to me it's SO worth it all to see my Grey now compared to when I got him he's a different bird and most of all for the special bond I have with my Birdy Boy now.

I'm sure I've not covered everything but hopefully provided enough to give you an idea of what kind of commitment an African Grey needs to be healthy and happy and how rewarding it can be.
There is loads of information out there about Greys all it takes is a search. But if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or a msg in my guestbook and I'll get back to you, I'm not an expert but if I can help I will.

Don't forget to check out the pictures - my missing wallpaper, plus cage and stand - and the last one BIRD Buster and Dizz dog is pretty good.

Thanks for taking the time to read,
Manda.

(28.2.08 Have decided to start a Bird Blog which you can find here: http://disturbedbird.blogspot.com/ )

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Comments about this review »

mogdred1 26.02.2009 13:18

Really good review, excellent amount of detail.

inycon2 13.12.2007 15:42

Goodness - everything you could possibly need to know! Excellent review.

amylovelace 12.12.2007 21:50

Fantastic review! I love the photo with your dogs - they don't seem to care about the parrot behind them :) I don't think my cat would be so laid back though!!

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Review Ratings »

This review of African Grey Parrot has been rated:

"exceptional" by (63%):

  1. mogdred1
  2. inycon2
  3. amylovelace

and 26 other members

"very helpful" by (37%):

  1. jonescraiga
  2. jesi
  3. jenny967

and 14 other members

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